Walter Cronkite spoke here: Among celebs Junior League brought to York

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Walter Cronkite, who died last week speaks on April 21, 1998, in York. He appeared at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center as part of the Junior League’s “In The Spotlight” series. Background posts: Hedy Lamarr’s visit to York long remembered and Presidential visits to York listed.

News of Walter Cronkite’s death last week sent journalists to the archives to find if the noted TV newscaster was ever here.
Sure enough, he was, courtesy of the Junior League of York’s “In the Spotlight” speaker’s series.
That series drew Cronkite and a host of other luminaries here.
That list includes:


George H.W. Bush, Art Buchwald, Margaret Thatcher, Colin Powell, Katie Couric, Sidney Poitier, Her Majesty Queen Noor, Tim Russert, Terry Bradshaw and Bill O’Reilly.
Most were well received although news that Oliver North was an invitee caused some “why did they select him?” comments in the York area.
Some of what Cronkite said, during his April 21, 1998, appearance in York, as reported in the York Daily Record/Sunday News (7/18/09):
On being a journalist: “We are not in journalism to be loved. It takes tremendous courage to be a good journalist. . . . What I’m talking about is the kind of courage it takes to write an unpopular story. . . . You’ve got to report it because people need to know it. It’s not an easy job.”
On the public’s trust: “The public’s attitude toward the press . . . is a cyclical thing. It has its ups and downs. . . . The press has become far more aggressive.”
On the limits of television: The number of words spoken in a half-hour newscast equal the same number on two-thirds of a newspaper page, Cronkite said. “I firmly believe we cannot get enough news from television to adequately exercise our responsibilities in a democracy.”
On the assassination of President John F. Kennedy: After six straight hours on the air, Cronkite finally got a break. He had reported that phone lines all over the country were jammed with people calling relatives and friends, but it didn’t hit him until he got to his office and tried to call his wife, Betsy.
All 12 of the lines on his phone were lit up. For a second, one opened, and Cronkite grabbed it. By then, however, someone was already calling in.
“I want to talk to someone in charge at CBS News,” the woman on the other end of the line said and launched into a complaint about the network allowing Walter Cronkite on the air crying his “crocodile tears” when “everyone knows he hated John Kennedy.”
Tired, testy and knowing he was no Kennedy-hater, Cronkite responded: “You’re speaking to Walter Cronkite, and you, madam, are a damned idiot!”
On “the duty to know”: “The government suppression of the free press during the Gulf War was a travesty. . . . I’m disappointed that the American people didn’t march out of their homes and down the streets and demand that the Pentagon give the press access.”
Footnote: One e-mailer wrote that Cronkite was here after the TMI
accident in 1979. “Several local reporters had an opportunity to meet with him
during his stay in the area,” he wrote. Any info out there on his visit?
To join a community conversation about Cronkite on The Exchange bulletin board, click here.

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. East Region Editor, Digital First Media. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
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